Speech of the Hon’ble Minister for Environment and Forests Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan at the First Stock taking meeting of Senior Officials and Experts to Review Implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP)
Following is the text of the speech of the Hon’ble Minister for Environment and Forests Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan in an International Conference held today on tiger conservation in New Delhi.
“India has been participating in the Global Tiger Initiative platform since its launch. The International Tiger Forum held in Russia during November, 2010 culminated in the St. Petersburg Declaration. A Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP) was also adopted by the tiger range countries, with the national priorities being spelt out in their respective National Tiger Recovery Programmes (NTRP).
It is almost one and half years since then and there is a need for stocktaking to know the progress relating to the implementation of NTRPs and the GTRP. I am glad that the platform provided by the GTI is facilitating representatives from Governments, donors, experts and conservationists to join hands for the important common cause of tiger conservation.
The status of wild tiger continues to remain endangered world over. As we all know, threats to wild tiger and its habitat are due to several factors like poaching, illegal trade catering to demand for body parts and derivatives of tiger, loss of habitat due to extractive industries, infrastructure and revenge killings. This list is not exhaustive. There are country-specific, area-specific issues which also affect tigers. Hence, the situation calls for adaptive as well as active management.
India’s commitment for saving the tiger is well known. Wild tigers thrive in 17 of our States. We have the maximum number of tigers and their source areas. Project Tiger was launched in 1973 with 9 tiger reserves. Today, the coverage has increased to 41 reserves spread over all the 17 States. Almost 1% of our country’s geographical area is conserved for tiger as their core/critical habitat. Project Tiger has all long been a learning exercise. Our experience has highlighted the need for enlisting local public support, which is crucial for tiger conservation to succeed.
The ‘exclusive’ tiger agenda of the core, complemented by the ‘inclusive’ multiple use strategy in the surrounding buffer areas have strengthened wild tiger conservation.
Thus, the ‘people agenda’ ranks prominently in our ‘tiger agenda’. While we do not imagine any coexistence in the inviolate core areas, a viable inclusive agenda involving local people is fostered in the surrounding buffer. As many as 25 lakh mandays are generated annually in various States under Project Tiger through involvement of local workforce. Besides, the Tiger Conservation Plan makes it a statutory obligation for addressing both the core and buffer areas.
Since last year, after taking over as the Minister for Environment and Forests, I have further sharpened the focus on tiger. The Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger was revised in August, 2011. Its allotment was stepped up to Rs. 1216.86 crores, especially to support the States for securing inviolate space for tigers. Several additional components have also been included: (i) Change in the funding pattern in respect of North Eastern States (90:10), (ii) raising compensation for man-animal conflict to Rs. 2 lakhs, (iii) acquisition of private land for making the core/critical tiger habitat inviolate, (iv) establishment of Tiger Safari, interpretation/awareness centres under the existing component of ‘co-existence agenda in buffer/fringe areas’, and management of such centres through the respective Panchayati Raj Institutions, and (v) re-introduction of Cheetah.
Field protection is important and continues to receive topmost priority. The tiger reserves are supported in a big way to deploy local workforce for protection. Besides, the reserves are also being assisted for raising, arming and deploying the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF).
The information technology is being used to step up surveillance. A pilot initiative has been undertaken at Corbett using intelligent thermal cameras for 24X7 surveillance.
Another important initiative is the ‘M-STrIPES’. This consists of field based protocols for patrolling and ecological monitoring, complemented by a customized software for storage, retrieval, analysis and reporting.
The Phase-IV tiger reserve level monitoring has also been launched recently. This would enable reserve level monitoring of tiger population, its prey and habitat on an annual basis. The protocol has a menu of options ranging from use of camera traps, distance sampling for prey to DNA analysis from tiger scats. The reserve level monitoring would further complement the once in four years country level snapshot assessment of tigers and its prey.
A National repository of camera trap photo database of tigers is also being set up. This unique ID system would enable linkages with similar repositories in States to keep track of our wild tigers.
We are in the process of establishing some more tiger reserves. Based on our 2010 assessment, a new tiger reserve (Kawal Tiger Reserve, Andhra Pradesh) has been constituted. Further, ‘in-principle’ approval has also been accorded for declaring the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu as a tiger reserve.
We are faced with several challenges as well. We need to consolidate the inviolate space for tiger in core areas of tiger reserves, besides actively restoring the connecting habitats in tiger landscapes. The tiger concerns have to be factored in sectors where tiger conservation is not the goal.
The 2010 country level snapshot assessment of tiger and its habitat has shown an increase of 20% over the earlier such assessment in 2006. However, the outcome has highlighted the need for restoring the fringe areas of tiger reserves and the connecting forest linkages.
The second of independent Management Effectiveness Evaluation of tiger reserves has been carried out. The actionable points emerging from this evaluation alongwith the country level assessment have helped us in shaping our future roadmap. This is also reflected in our NTRP.
During this meeting, the official representatives from Russia and India would be signing a joint resolution between the two countries, containing joint agreed actions for bilateral co-operation, emanating from the outcome of the meeting of the Sub Group on Tiger and Leopard, which was hosted by India in November, 2011 at New Delhi. This forms part of the India – Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Co-operation.
India has a Protocol with Bangaldesh for conservation of the Royal Bengal Tiger of the Sundarbans. The officials from both the countries would avail this opportunity to firm up the road map in this context.
The fifth Indo-Nepal consultative meeting on Transboundary Biodiversity Conservation with a focus on Wildlife / Tiger Conservation was held in October, 2011 at Nepal. A joint resolution would be signed by the official representatives from both the countries based on the discussion”.